Identifying our identity: who are we, after all?

Published on Feb 13 2012 // Opinion
By Sam Rizal

As our story is fading towards historical insignificance, how we define ourselves now may come into play when our generations desperately search for their rational identities.

One of the hot topics surrounding the resettled Bhutanese communities around the globe has been that of distinguishing selves from a fairly good number of evolving nationalities that we find ourselves sank into. Although we do not “have to” have solely one nationality that defines us, for in the liberal world globalization has contracted the map of the world making dual nationality no more a surprise, we might be doing ourselves a favor in the long run if we can stick with the nationality inherited from our forefathers – which is non-other than Bhutanese.

As long as patriotism is concerned, our contemporary Bhutanese community can be classified into three arbitrary groups. The first of them can be credited as historians for their immeasurable contributions to creation and preservation of our cultures, values and traditions. These are our parents and grandparents, government employees and village elites, who, throughout their presence in the country, fought for its development with all they had. The Bhutanese land has saturated a huge quantity of free blood and sweats of these people. They took pride in serving their country even though their diligence and earnestness were discredited by the unfeeling regime. From putting bridges on the rivers to extending roads and creating social norms to governing themselves, these people were backbones of the country not only for their infrastructural gifts but also for their tenacity and determinations that almost helped the country see through isolation and developmental dullness. These are unsung heroes, our true idols, and ever living martyrs. The fundamental virtues they have conveyed to their descendants, if understood, are of a high importance. These icons, to much of our privilege, are among us this time around, and best of all, their love and respect to the country is ever escalating. If you ask these people what it was like to carry a basket full of oranges from their villages to the local markets – which were often hours and some even days away – for some hard cash, they would never say that it was a bad experience. To not much of a wonder, they would say that it’s been badly missed. These people are authors of Druk-Yul and its people’s unwritten history. These are pioneers of songs yet to be composed, founders of humanity circulating around, and examples of humble mankind.

The second group should consist the ones born in Bhutan, but unfortunately, could not stay there for so long as to gain any substantial sense of belonging. These are our elder brothers and sisters, teachers and neighbors, who, despite not having had as much experience and fondness as their predecessors had in the country, still have set aside a big chuck of their hearts and minds to the remembrance of their nation. While this group is particularly prone to the worldly changes, and, to be brutally honest, could somewhere in the horizon act as if it has forgotten what the past was like while integrating themselves to the new livelihoods, I believe this could happen because they have missed the country so much, to the extent that their aspirations of ever hugging it again have sadly faded. But let’s be optimistic. After all, their nationalism is the hardest to be questioned of all and are the only ones, if any, who can seriously rewrite the pages of the historical books siding the Diasporas.

Exposed to opportunities that never existed – or at least weren’t accessible to its ancestors – the third group is particularly the hardest to read of all. They have all the rights to deny Bhutan: they’ve never seen it or have never had any experience with it. And here they are, in the new lands; with new dreams each night and with each opportunity that lay, countless imaginary successes evolve. Everything being equal, will they have any role in the near future to potentially wave the flag of the country they truly belong to? Or will the time defeat them as it did to their ancestors?

Much more questions lie ahead of us than do answers: how are we going to assemble this trio? How are we going to transfer this collective “wisdom” to the coming generation? Or is it even worth our time and commitment? Should we just let the clock click and contend with what the future yields? We know that we didn’t get to write our own history, and off-course, what has been written wouldn’t have been what it is had we won the battle. With all these in mind, should we strive towards undoing the erased truth? Or is it even possible? As hard as these questions may sound, they can be fairly linked to one clause: it all depends on how successfully we will cling to our nationality.

But with the banner of resettlement stronger than ever before and the dismantling of our stories taking a brutal shape, all these thoughts might be just an unwise application of English alphabets intending to make the article as long as possible. Some readers might mark this talk as “rubbish”, and others might have already been exhausted by this sort of next-to-impossible faith. But believe. Believe not in the cliché that we’re running out of time, but in the optimism that nothing has happened yet, bigger things are yet to be seen. Believe that ours is not the finished article just yet and the ethnic cleansing did not succeed in its extermination campaign, rather it strengthened us to a more firm, self-determined and unyielding personality. Believe that changes are inevitable and we will not always end up being in the losing side. We had dreamt dreams in our lives. Believe that those dreams are yet to come. Our better days are ahead of us.

So, let us all unite, all true Bhutanese, no matter who we are and where we are at, we have nothing to lose, instead we have our nationality to win, our historical errors to correct and fate to reverse. Let us keep our nation flag in the schools we go to and the homes we live in and the cars we drive, and most importantly, let us always print the picture of our soil in our hearts and minds. Optimism is the only true medicine. Sometimes, believing in the future yields you what the past did not. Yes, we are Bhutanese all the way!